Betty Tompkins’ (USA, 1945) work centers on the question of how female identity is represented. For the series Women Words, Tompkins ripped out pages from art history books that show famous works depicting women. On these figures, Tompkins wrote stories that she had collected from women. The stories describe encounters in which these women were confronted with their gender, often in sexist ways, in their everyday lives. Tompkins started the series in 2002. It strongly resonates with – and was fueled by – the #MeToo movement. In 2016, when Tompkins exhibited similar works on canvas, she received so many more stories from women that she decided to continue the series, this time painting over some of the most treasured art historical portraits of women. Her series suggests a link between the tradition of art history, in which women have largely been depicted under the male gaze, to the ongoing discrimination of women.
A project by the Frans Hals Museum and Studium Generale Rietveld Academie, curated by Melanie Bühler, supported by the Goethe-Institut
This website is part of the project The Art of Critique, a collaboration between the Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem and Studium Generale Rietveld Academie, supported by the Goethe-Institut Amsterdam.
The initial project would have consisted of a series of events in which students of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie would have actively participated. The events would have taken place in the exhibition space of the Frans Hals Museum to accompany the exhibitions of The Art of Critique: Image Power, and Structure Critique.
As it is no longer possible to come together for events like these in the flesh, we have moved the project online.
The Online Environment
This online environment, in which you can experience the first exhibition Image Power, that was on view at the Frans Hals Museum between March and September 2020, is part of the project that asks what constitutes a practice of Institutional Critique today.
Institutional Critique is commonly defined as an art practice that questions, comments on, and criticizes the institutions involved in the production, display and commerce of art (e.g. museums, galleries, art academies, auction houses, artists’ studios, the art market, and art criticism). The exhibition series links the embodied, feminist forms of critique of Andrea Fraser, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas (in the collection of the Frans Hals Museum) to those employed by artists working today.
Just as the practices of Institutional Critique point to the conditions under which art is shown, the online environment created by Giulia Bierens De Haan, graduation student Graphic Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, questions how we display information about artworks by employing a series of categories, commonly used in the museum context, as a structure to display information about them. Through these categories, one can experience the exhibition Image Power. By having these categories so explicitly brought out in the open, one becomes aware that ordering information is never a neutral act but always preconditioned on how the world is viewed in a larger sense.
On the exhibition project The Art of Critique
The artistic movement of Institutional Critique feels particularly urgent today, as we are witnessing an intense moment of “institutional critique” in society at large: fueled by social media, the critique of institutions – think of phenomena like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter and the large scale climate protests – is practiced everywhere with an intensity and at a scale that feels unmatched.
At the same time, one can question whether it still makes sense to treat the art world as a separate institutional field now that art institutions align themselves more and more with profit-oriented thinking and impulses generated within the art field are quickly swallowed up by a larger creative industry.
Taking into account these developments, The Art of Critique asks what constitutes a practice of Institutional Critique today.
Institutional Critique Today
March 7 until September 27, 2020
Frans Hals Museum, location Hal
Image Power – the first chapter of the exhibition trilogy The Art of Critique – is a group exhibition featuring twenty international artists whose work questions the role of art in our image-driven age of social media and political unrest.
What does art have to do with the 100 million images posted on Instagram every day? The past years have seen the rapid integration of technology into both everyday life and, simultaneously, the art field. Museums have gone from advertising strict no-photograph policies to welcoming selfies and suggesting hashtags. Museum collections that were once only accessible through restricted internal databases are now fully searchable online, and users are encouraged to like and share as much as possible. While the latter example suggests a process of democratization, the former perhaps also allows us to imagine museums being reduced to mere “content farms” in the service of social media.
Online communication has become more and more visual, and visual codes have become increasingly sophisticated. New platforms have emerged that place a greater focus on images than their predecessors. We have gone from blogs to Facebook and from Instagram, via Snapchat, to TikTok. Images are everywhere. How does the field of art, which has traditionally been the domain of image production, relate to these platforms? And how is it being reshaped by them? Artworks by Dena Yago, Gina Beavers, FLAME, Jaakko Pallasvuo and Louis Ashcroft thematize important aspects of this new landscape and the role and function of art therein.
Many works in Image Power show that the consequences of art and its institutions – meaning art history, artists and museums – reach beyond the world of art alone, that they also affect society in a larger sense. The artworks also show that the opposite applies too. Some artworks draw from the ways critique is presently voiced elsewhere and apply this to the sphere of art: they bring the strategies of the #MeToo movement to art history (Betty Tompkins), for instance, or use the figure of the whistle-blower as a stand in for the critical artist (Nora Turato). Many of the artworks challenge their own status as artworks as they also relate to and draw from other fields such as fashion, or the world of consumption and luxury.
A Maior (founded in 2011, Portugal) // Louise Ashcroft (1983, England, lives in London) // Gina Beavers (1978, Greece, lives in NYC) // Tony Cokes (1956 US, lives in Rhode Island) // Tracey Emin (1963, England, lives in London) // FLAME (artist duo founded in Brussels in 2010, lives in Berlin) // Sylvie Fleury (1961, Switzerland, lives in Geneva) // Andrea Fraser (1965, USA, lives in Los Angeles and New York) // Florence Jung (1986, France / Switzerland, lives in Paris) // Sarah Lucas (1962 England, lives in London) // Marlon Mullen (1963, USA, lives in Richmond) // Ima-Abasi Okon (1981, England, lives in London and Amsterdam) // Jaakko Pallasvuo (1987, Finland, lives in Helsinki) // Heji Shin (1976 Korea, lives in Berlin) // Cole Speck (1991, Canada, lives in Alert Bat, BC) // Tenant of Culture (1990, The Netherlands, lives in London) // Betty Tompkins (1945 USA, lives in New York) // Nora Turato (1991, Croatia, lives in Amsterdam) // Christine Wang (1985, USA, lives in San Francisco) // Dena Yago (1988, USA, lives in New York)
In the museum shop a special edition of a T-shirt by PMS (a project by the artist Marlie Mul) is available (PMS stands for “Premenstrual Syndrome”)
The Art of Critique is a project dedicated to the question what Institutional Critique means today. It consists of an exhibition, a symposium, artist comissions and a publication.
The exhibition connected to the first chapter Image Critique, of which the digital version can still be experienced online, was held at the Frans Hals Museum in 2020. Together with Rietveld Academie’s Studium Generale, an online program that could be accessed through this website was developed that accompanied the exhibition throughout 2020 and 2021.
In 2021, the Frans Hals Museum has comissioned the production of several artworks as part of the project’s second chapter Structure Critique. These artworks will be presented in a series of events in winter/spring 2022 at the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.
The project will culminate in a publication to be released in spring 2022.
March 15 - April 15: The White Pube Podcast, Episode 1 Origin Story
The White Pube is the collaborative identity of writers and curators Zarina Muhammad and Gabrielle de la Puente. The two met during their BA Fine Art at Central St. Martins, London and began publishing exhibition reviews and essays on social media to challenge the art world´s lack of accessibility and representation. Their personal approach to art writing has been characterized as ´embodied criticism´, taking bodily experience and personal encounters as a starting point.
A transcription of this episode is available on thewhitepube.com
Hosts: Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad
April 15 - May 15
More information soon.
May/June 2020, Online
On the online circulation of images, the museum as “content farm” and the role of critique as part of this environment.
With: Louise Ashcroft (artist, London) and Fritha Jenkins (artist, London), FLAME (artist duo, Berlin) and Shama Khanna (curator/writer, London).
May 15, 2020 at 3pm: Live Performance Concrete Conversation by Louise Ashcroft and Fritha Jenkins.
Warped speech, broken eye contact and frozen facial expressions have infuriated our screen-based communications since the pandemic struck. But how might we use images to more inventively communicate our physical and emotional experiences through our screens? In this performance, Louise Ashcroft will have an image-based conversation with her best friend (and occasional collaborator) Fritha Jenkins using the Zoom video conferencing platform. The subject of their conversation is the Frans Hals Museum online collection, with works and interpretations being evoked and interpreted through odd sculptural gestures and object collages improvised with domestic clutter in their own homes at opposite sides of London. E.g. Pasta tongs become the jaws of a dog in a 17th century painting.
June 5, 2020: Presentation Flatness - Attempting to Decentre Power by curator and critic
Shama Khanna will talk about the different forms of criticality enacted by her long-running curatorial platform, Flatness. The attempt of this multi-format project and website www.flatness.eu is to reconstitute the terms and conditions under which artworks are produced and framed: aiming to reduce feelings of exhaustion, overexposure and compulsion. Drawing on pre-Web 2.0 online histories combined with a reflexive interest in the desires of artists working semi-digitally, Flatness presents a more porous context for artworks to be shared as part of a genuinely networked culture.
June 12, 2020: Presentation FLAME - How the Invisible Hand of the Internet interferes with Art
FLAME will be talking about their three paintings in the current exhibition at the Frans Hals Museum which are part of their series called Art Stacks. Art Stacks are sets of appropriations of canonized artworks as seen and reconfigured through the lens of an automated mind. The lecture will offer some thoughts about the changing perceptions of art on the Internet and how art itself is being molded into its ever narrowing suggestions. FLAME is Taslima Ahmed and Manuel Gnam, two artists currently living in Berlin.
November 15 - December 15, 2020: Louise Ashcroft, Dead Relevant, 2020.
December 15 - January 15, 2021: Dena Yago on the “Content Industrial Complex” e-flux podcast.
January 15th - February 15th: Tracey Emin, Why I Never Became A Dancer, 1995.
February 15th - March 15th: Andrea Fraser, Official Welcome (Hamburg version), 2003, video. Courtesy of the Frans Hals Museum.
- Color Critique (Intervention and Symposium, Spring 2019)
- Image Power (Exhibition, March 7 - September 27 2020)
- Structure Critique (Artist Comissions, Winter 2021/22)
- The Art of Critique Book Launch (Spring 2022)
March 15 - April 15, 2021: The White Pube podcast.
February 15 - March 15, 2021: Andrea Fraser, Official Welcome (Hamburg version), 2003, video. Courtesy of the Frans Hals Museum.
January 15 - February 15, 2021:
Tracey Emin, Why I Never Became A Dancer, 1995.
December 15 - January 15, 2021: Dena Yago on the ‘Content Industrial Complex’ e-flux podcast.
November 15 - December 15, 2020: Louise Ashcroft, Dead Relevant, 2020.
June 12, 2020: How the Invisible Hand of the Internet interferes with Art -performance/presentation by artist duo FLAME, can be watched here.
June 5, 2020: Presentation Flatness - Attempting to Decentre Power
presentation by curator and critic Shama Khanna, can be watched here.
May 15, 2020: Concrete Conversation by Louise Ashcroft and Fritha Jenkins, a recording of the live performance can be watched here.